“If you want something to change, you have to make that change happen yourself.”
Student Transfer Scenario Review
Spirit Hymn by TripleCeeK
Build Released: 10/16/2021
Length: 5.1 Hours
Played using Student Transfer Version 6.1
TFGS Thread – Download – Flowchart
The following is a review of a fan-made Scenario for the visual novel Student Transfer. For more information about Student Transfer, please consult my dedicated Student Transfer page or the official Student Transfer website.
Set in a remixed rendition of regular continuity, Spirit Hymn follows an asocial version of John. A version who has failed to form any meaningful relationships with his peers, lacks prospects for the future, and has been wallowing in a state of depression for a good while. At least before the plot-triggering doohickey comes into play in the form of a mysterious black book that, after some translation, John uses to absentmindedly cast a spell. A spell that predictably turns him into a girl and conveniently erases his history at Tina Koya High, allowing him to attend classes as a transfer student. Thus presenting John with the opportunity to form new connections with others, while unencumbered by his teenage boy awkwardness.
What ensues is a common route that splits off into three branches where the player can choose to form a connection with Yui, Vanessa, or Rita, and all of them follow the same general structure. John slides into a relationship with these girls using his ‘eclectic introvert knowledge,’ starts eating lunch with them, enjoys sharing an afternoon with them, and develops something within the spectrum of a solid friendship and a more romantic relationship. All of which is given a dip downward or upward by a universal event that occurs during day 11. An event that coincidentally ends John’s joyride as Jane, sending him back in time to use his newfound knowledge to form more meaningful relationships… Which are never written in detail, because TripleCeeK wanted to end the story there, I guess.
Or in more direct words, Spirit Hymn is pretty much three flavors of the same general story. While this could work to form a more cohesive tale that benefits from three different perspectives, the Scenario does not really do that, and instead suffers from a lack of variety. These routes admittedly offer different concepts and ideas, but these ideas are sadly ever explored as deeply as they could be. Such as the changes Sandra and Holly underwent as part of John’s reality warp.
With all this in mind, it is easy to reach the conclusion that, while Spirit Hymn has unique aspirations, there simply is not enough detailed story content to make the Scenario feel truly whole or complete. Now, TripleCeeK said these three paths were more of an introduction and has claimed that a true route is going to be present in a future update. Though, that’s not a good excuse. When you are writing a 5 hour long story with three full endings, you kind of lose the ability to argue that things are just getting started. It’s akin to a creator pulling ‘the game gets good 12 hours in’ argument to sell the game that they’re making. It just begs the question of, if that is your vision, why didn’t you make this ‘introduction’ shorter?
While this lack of detail or depth left me wanting for more, I still ultimately enjoyed what Spirit Hymn provided, and think that it does quite a few things right.
The story has its own tone and vibe that’s remarkably different from most other Student Transfer Scenarios, and part of that can be seen in how it handles its subject matter. While John ultimately is turned into a girl by the magical book, the story is never really about his transformation. Instead, the transformation is mostly used as a way for John to more easily facilitate a fresh start and more quickly form friendships with female students. This means that, beyond buying shampoo in the Yui route, there are few scenes of John fumbling with feminine matters. He goes on no erotic excursions. He has acquired muscle memory to help him with this transformation. And while he accepts his new body and life rather quickly, he never addresses issues pertaining to his gender identity.
These could all be seen as negatives to those who wanted yet another ‘turned into a girl’ escapade, but I’d rather see creators use Student Transfer as a platform to tell whatever stories they so desire. Even if they only involve a few, if any, transformation elements.
In playing a bit loose with continuity, TripleCeeK reimagined John as a more thoughtful and introspective character. Someone who is well-read and tries to unconsciously position himself as an intellectual, going on diatribes as he couples with his reality changes and the delicate relationships he forges. Though, he never stops feeling like the 18-year-old he is. His reactions are on the more dramatic side, his ‘real life experience’ is clearly limited, and he never has much control over his own life. It all goes to make him feel like a realized character, and a protagonist whom I enjoyed following throughout this Scenario.
Though, much of the reason why I enjoyed this rendition of John has to do with the script prepared by TripleCeek. While the first day or two has some of that ‘first draft of chapter one awkwardness,’ Spirit Hymn steadily finds its own voice, which is balanced between casual character-driven dialogue. Descriptive analysis from the protagonist. And some genuinely lovely ‘white text on black screen’ sections where TripleCeek really flexes their writing muscles and tries to make the story into something more poetic.
Shifting to the presentation, Spirit Hymn offers a fair amount of customized assets. They added loads of new backgrounds to flesh out its remixed world, and all but one of them neatly mesh with the assets used from the base game. Including the ‘adventure game object inserts’ that I’ve always had this weird fondness for. There’s an ominous introduction video that does a nice job of setting the scene for… a story far darker and more painful than the one seen here. While the newly added songs in the soundtrack do an excellent job of enhancing the emotion of key scenes with their subdued tones, melancholic melodies, and ability to evoke a sense of uneasiness.
It is clear that TripleCeeK went further than most when it comes to the presentation, though I still got some major ‘sound novel’ vibes from Spirit Hymn. Animations and character placement are kept pretty conservative, there are many scenes with no on-screen characters, and there are a relatively high number of black screen ‘novel narration’ sections present here. This could be seen as an area to improve, though personally I quite like the minimal approach of sound novels, as it evokes a different, more somber, mood than something more lively or visually robust.
In summation, Spirit Hymn is an enjoyable Scenario that has not quite hit its stride yet narratively. It has a distinct mood that sets it apart from its contemporaries and definitely has enough ideas to make at least one compelling story. Unfortunately, it spends too much of its duration rehashing the same story concept in three different ways, while never taking things as far as it could.
…Also, despite promising identity death, horror, and occult with the tags, pretty much none of those things are in this build of Spirit Hymn. There is also no true ‘spirit hymn,’ as John neither gets involved with spirits nor are there any hymns. …Huh.
In addition to reviewing this Scenario, I also prepared a flowchart. Please let me know if there are any errors.
This Post Has 3 Comments
Thanks for the review. Here’s just a few brief counter-opinions I wanted to make:
‘An event that coincidentally ends John’s joyride as Jane, sending him back in time to use his newfound knowledge to form more meaningful relationships… Which are never written in detail, because TripleCeeK wanted to end the story there, I guess.’
One of the main themes in the story is the importance of personal action. So, one reason for those endings not being written in detail because the future itself isn’t written in detail. It’s up to John (and us) to write our own futures, which is why they are open endings. Rita’s ending is a similar case, but slightly different in execution.
‘While this could work to form a more cohesive tale that benefits from three different perspectives, the Scenario does not really do that, and instead suffers from a lack of variety. These routes admittedly offer different concepts and ideas, but these ideas are sadly ever explored as deeply as they could be.’
Each route only covers a few days, there’s not much ‘variety’ or depth you can explore in that time period. If anything, I thought I put too many things (such as character development) into each route. Being realistic, how much can you really know about a person you’ve only known for such a short amount of time? I don’t expect to know a person’s life story and their deepest secrets after just starting at a new school. Think back to your own school days, did you know everything about the most popular girl, the biggest nerd’s etc. personal lives within a week?
In any case, similarities are going to appear because it’s the same few days that occur in each route e.g., the last day is ‘Sayaka’s’ death which is the climax of the story so far. I did find the number of days that the events of the story (so far) occur over was a bit of a writing constraint, but it has a reason for being so in the story to come.
‘Now, TripleCeeK said these three paths were more of an introduction and has claimed that a true route is going to be present in a future update. Though, that’s not a good excuse. When you are writing a 5-hour long story with three full endings, you kind of lose the ability to argue that things are just getting started. It’s akin to a creator pulling ‘the game gets good 12 hours in’ argument to sell the game that they’re making. It just begs the question of, if that is your vision, why didn’t you make this ‘introduction’ shorter?’
I do agree with you that calling it an ‘introduction’ wasn’t a wise move as what I’ve written so far is too long to be considered as such and I could have re-worded that. Although, it’s difficult to gauge a person’s experience when it comes to scenarios (or visual novels in general) due to the variety of background’s that people have. I’m coming from a background where I’ve read 70+ visual novels which are often 30+ hours in length. So, having what I’ve written so far (maybe 1/4 of the total story) be considered an ‘early’ part doesn’t seem that out of place to me. Especially when I’ve made it clear that the story is nowhere where I want it to be.
‘There’s an ominous introduction video that does a nice job of setting the scene for… a story far darker and more painful than the one seen here.’
That opening video has symbolic meaning which I want to avoid talking about, but I had thought that the story was dark enough already (and several comments on the forum have said as much). I did self-censor A LOT of content to avoid offence, something which will be avoided in future updates.
‘Animations and character placement are kept pretty conservative, there are many scenes with no on-screen characters, and there are a relatively high number of black screen ‘novel narration’ sections present here. This could be seen as an area to improve, though personally I quite like the minimal approach of sound novels, as it evokes a different, more somber, mood than something more lively or visually robust.’
Atmosphere was important, although I wanted to show more visually. Unfortunately, I was limited by Student-Transfer itself. Many characters have limited sprites, poses are restrictive etc. I’d love to add such things but I’m no artist! There was plenty of CG’s I wanted to use but wasn’t allowed to because there’s a rule on the forum that unused CG’s (from the original sources) aren’t allowed. I’m also coming from a background where VN’s that are showing a first-person perspective don’t show the player’s sprite either because it’s redundant… as you are viewing from their eyes anyway.
‘While the first day or two has some of that ‘first draft of chapter one awkwardness,’ Spirit Hymn steadily finds its own voice, which is balanced between casual character-driven dialogue.’
Agreed. That first chapter is badly in need of a re-write.
‘Also, despite promising identity death, horror, and occult with the tags, pretty much none of those things are in this build of Spirit Hymn. ‘
I’d argue that having undergone an occult ritual, then having your whole identity and family be erased would fit into two of those tags. A popular classmate dying of a very real circumstance such as suicide then appearing in a nightmare can be seen as an example of horror, but what do I know? ‘Horror’ can mean seemingly invincible scary monsters attacking sexually loose camp counselors, or it can mean dealing with the struggles of everyday life (and the extreme pains it can bring). But yes, those aspects are quite limited, but I want to do a lot more ‘horror’ etc. stuff in upcoming updates. I have so many ideas that putting them down on paper is a challenge right now.
‘There is also no true ‘spirit hymn,’ as John neither gets involved with spirits nor are there any hymns. …Huh.’
I’m a massive fan of old-school PC-98, X68000 etc. soundtracks, and I happened to think this track name suited great. Nothing deeper than that ;)
Hello TripleCeeK. Nice to hear that you read my review. You said a LOT of things, so I’m just going to go through a numbered list for my responses.
1. I understand that part of the theme of your Scenario is that if someone wants to change their life, they need to initiate that change themselves. It’s why I used the quote I used for the subheader. I understand and appreciate this concept, but in its current form, every route in this Scenario ends with John realizing that ‘it was all a dream’ before going back to his own life, promising to make things better. While I would be okay if you did this once, you did this three times, and I do not think doing this so many times reinforces your message or point.
2. You are the person who decided to only make each route a few days long. You could have made each route a full week, or several weeks, and you could have stretched the realms of believability and nudged the characters closer together. That might have made the progression feel a bit fast or unnatural, but I think it would have been preferable to the alternative.
3. When I approach a Student Transfer Scenario, I never expect the length or detail of a full visual novel. Scenarios are hobbyist projects done by enthusiastic fans and I do not believe that any singular Scenario has brushed beyond 30 hours. Hell, lots manage to wrap things up within 5 hours.
Also, and this is just a general writing rule, if you are writing a story, you typically want to grab the reader early on, introduce them to the interesting concept that makes your story unique or interesting, and give them an idea of what they are getting into. I get that some stories work better with a slow start, but if you’re 25% done and the “story is nowhere where [you] want it to be” that speaks more to your writing ability than anything.
4. That’s actually a bit disappointing to me, as I enjoy darker and more ‘offensive’ stories. Hell, I wrote a story about an ‘idealized’ version of myself committing suicide that’s set to drop on the 22nd, and I did that as a Christmas special.
5. I understand that you had grander ambitions, and I think it’s pretty… dumb that the ST dev team does not let people use unused CGs because… they don’t own the assets and that’s a foolish thing to restrict, as people can probably find every unused CG just by visiting e-hentai. However, I still liked what you did here, because I think sound novels are ‘the cool’!
6. The first chapter is the most important, so you should probably get on that sooner than later. :P
7. I tend to be a bit conservative when I use the term horror, and while I suppose things like occult rituals and suicide can constitute a horror vibe, it really did not for me. Then again, I do not consider Higurashi to be a horror series, nor do I consider any of my novels to be horror, as I never try to scare people with my work, and every time I do bring up a horror element, like body horror or psychological dread, I do it because I think it is ‘the cool’.
Also, if you have ideas, write them down and form an outline around them. Arrange them as a series of key events and come up with ‘stuff’ you can use to fill in the gaps. That’s how writing works… or at least that’s how I make my outlines. :P
8. Aw. So it’s just a song reference? That’s slightly disappointing… I wanted ghostly boppers, darn it! D:<
I just wanna say that I absolutely love this scenario. It’s my most favourite one, and honestly the first time I’ve felt really attached to a visual novel story.
I love the wholesome friendships that play out in the story, even with the enigmatic Jane who may or may not want to eat your soul. Helping people, reconnecting, making new connections.
I like the mystery and dread behind ‘Jane’. What’s she doing in the human world? Why does she care so much about how John’s life plays out? And how she slowly strays from the archetype of mysterious demon that may be out to screw you over and is playfully amused by human suffering. I can’t wait to find out what she’s really doing.
And I think the way you tweak John’s starting relationships from the base game makes him a much more compelling character. Base John already has meaningful relationships with a good group. Hymn John starts out cut off with only a light familiarity with Kiyoshi. And with none of the childhood love interests in the base game.
He is truly a nobody. Rather than the self-insert ‘loser’ in every wish fulfilment story. Lonely, both platonically and sexually. Frustrated and dissatisfied with life. Worried that he means nothing to anyone.
I think it makes the conflict feel very real and gives the story a more serious tone(suicide not withstanding). I like it a lot.
So thanks you so much for making this scenario Trippleceek. I really enjoyed it.